Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Where is God in Tragedy?

            The answer seems simple, right?  Since God doesn't change, He's the same place in the presence of tragedy, as in the absence of tragedy. Although perhaps that explanation is too simplistic, it is certainly true that God is generally pinned more quickly with the bad things that happen as compared to the good.  Maybe the real question is, and it's perfectly okay to ask a question like, "How can a good God allow bad things to happen?"  Since the beginning of time people have asked similar questions.  However, I believe our human perspective is clouded by filters we sometimes forget or try to ignore.  Let's look at a few important things to remember.

            First and foremost is the inherent goodness of God.   The nature and character of God as described throughout the Bible is holy, true, loving, kind, and faithful, and all things good beyond imagination.  In fact, God cannot in any way be considered unholy, untrue, unloving, unkind, or unfaithful. A number of great books have been written to help explain the awesome wonders of God.  One that has helped me is called Knowing God by J.I. Packer.

            Secondly, God can be known as a personal being.  He is all powerful and at the same time wholy personable. He is not just a paternal figurehead, but the most loving Father ever.  His protection and provision cannot be matched by the best earthly fathers we have as our perception of "father."  To get to know Father God in this most intimate of relationships, is to get to know His Son Jesus first (John 14:6).   We can each truly know God personally as Father by simply yielding to the truth, and way, Jesus made for us to come to Him (John 3:16). 

            Another important thing to remember is that God's original design for the world did not include tragedy whatsoever. Humankind was designed to be sustained by what the Bible calls the "tree of life" (Genesis 3).  Because humans chose to bear the burden of discerning good from evil (and rebelled against God's provision of bearing that burden on their behalf), we now have evil in the world, along with the good.  "The Fall," as it is called, is responsible for the broken, hurtful, tragic, injurious, and evil circumstances of which  humans are now born capable (by their own choosing, not God's choosing). Again, God does provide a way for this to be redeemed.  The Christmas and Easter stories are real as they highlight the core of the gospel message of Jesus coming to earth to "seek and save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10).

            God has made Himself accessible.  God does not impose Himself on anyone, but is available for those who seek Him.  In a book called Finding God, author Larry Crabb writes, 'You know you're finding God when you believe that God is good—no matter what happens."  Psalm 46 begins, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble."  Several weeks ago at an elementary school in Connecticut, much grief and loss was caused by a gunman who fits the description of a predator written about in Psalm 10 which was penned several thousand years ago.  Without space to unpack the treasures of Psalm 10 here, I encourage the reader to read Psalm 10 in its entirety and notice how the author ends the narrative.  Good always triumphs over evil.  For those who may be mourning a tragic loss at the moment, let me remind you of a transition verse in this Psalm 10, "but you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand."  God himself grieves loss in tragedy.

            One other important thing to remember is that our community is only as strong as the principle-centered behavior of its citizens.  Because of humankind's "fallen" condition, evil comes naturally for each person.  Unless mores are taught and caught from one generation to the next, our "decent" society erodes, just like all great civilized peoples have crumbled in the past.   We are doomed to repeat history if we do not learn from it.  The godly principles upon which our nation was founded, have largely been abandoned, and even deemed unwelcomed.  Our American society's thirst for violence, disrespect for chastity, obsession with death, and general intolerance for godly values (all promoted as "entertainment") weakens our moral resolve to conquer evil and do good.   Incidents like the one mentioned in CT, at least in part seem to exemplify an inescapable principle that "whatever is sown, will be reaped."   No degree of lawmaking will correct this sort of problem.   As Emile Burkheim says, "When mores are sufficient, laws are unnecessary; when mores are insufficient, laws are unenforceable."

             In addition to God's nature and character defining "good," and in addition to God being highly personal, and in addition to God originally designing creation for mankind not to know evil, and in addition to God making Himself accessible in spite of mankind's bad choices, and in addition to God still being there even when we gang up against him in community, and in spite of whatever other filters we erect that cloud our picture of God, our spiritual eyes must be opened in order to believe the truth about God.  Let us join our prayer with one an early church leader Paul prayed for believers in the city of Ephesus, "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 2which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,  far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way" (Ephesians 1:18-23). Our true hope is not in the physical (bodily) realm, but in the spiritual realm inspired by the Holy Spirit of God.  Read Romans 8:18-39 to see how this works.

            May I encourage the reader not to allow evil deeds, resulting from evil choices, made by people prone to evil, to rob you of experiencing the good deeds, resulting from good choices,  made by an inherently good God, who empowers people to make good choices and demonstrate goodness in a broken world.  Let's choose to overcome evil, rather than being overcome by it.

            Note:   The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness.  This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith)  to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: . If you get anywhere near Pennsylvania for vacation or on business, be sure to look us up for lodging at 

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry